The new year, and particularly the start of a new decade, is always a pinnacle moment in time. Experiences notwithstanding, historically this time is met with renewed optimism, fortitude, enthusiasm and the overriding belief that anything is possible. This is a time when innovation is born because the trailblazers of new economies, the curiosity seekers, problem-solvers and nonconformists by nature, innovate based on an idealistic utopian society where their concepts create new markets.
So, it’s no wonder that events like the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), also known as the “global stage for innovation,” are akin to debutante balls for every sector of the tech ecosystem. These events introduce bleeding-edge technologies and product innovations that will set the trend for the coming year(s). It’s fertile ground for dreams to be unveiled and meet their respective audiences. Not every idea will become a reality, of course. Here are my predictions for the coming year.
VR will continue to transform and evolve.
We are at a precipice of ground-breaking technology with the promise of the internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), 5G, practical blockchain, autonomous vehicles, robotics, connected devices, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). I firmly believe the compilation of these technologies will forever change our lives.
VR, for example, has evolved since Facebook acquired Oculus in 2014, and is predicted to be the next iteration of the internet of senses world. VR was tagged as the ultimate empathy machine, and it eventually gave rise to AR, which enabled brands to engage with their consumers by creating an enhanced version of our reality. This trend will continue to evolve and grow as a key channel for companies to make more intimate connections with their target consumers and beyond.
ML and AI will redefine industries.
The implications for the adtech industry are unprecedented. ML and AI are transforming the advertising landscape. Machines, not people, will increasingly decide how advertising is targeted and activated. At the same time, new data privacy regulations and intelligence around fraud mitigation must be treated as first-class elements for the machines to optimize advertising activation. Without these governing systems, ML will optimize to fraudulent signals or address nonconsenting audiences with marketing messages. Companies that figure out how to orchestrate this together will be best positioned to win.
Outside of advertising, the adoption of these transformational technologies will continue to change consumers’ lives. Take the healthcare industry as a prime example. AI and deep learning models will help automate processes that expedite diagnosis and treatment plans and bring new drugs to market. If you’ve ever been involved in a personal health scare or that of a loved one, you understand what a game-changer this could be for patients and their families. Not everything is perfect, however.
With promised benefits of early detection, there will also be new challenges that consumers will face. Case in point: In order for AI models to operate, they must be trained, and training AI models is a function of instrumenting data points over large datasets across time. What is instrumented and the frequency of instrumentation will impact previous perspectives on privacy and HIPAA compliance. The process of training models is also susceptible to training bias. For this reason, I believe audit verification of the training logs will be as important in the future as the produced models themselves.
IoT will provide a competitive edge.
Along with increasing efficiency, we live in a world where our homes and cities are getting smarter through more ubiquitous and faster connection speeds. It’s thanks to 5G and, of course, IoT that our new connected life is possible. From an e-commerce perspective, IoT helps businesses analyze their markets and customers’ needs to help differentiate themselves from their competitors.
Businesses will be able to recognize shopping patterns in search of trends and online browsing to sell targeted products to their customers. Business will also understand the top of the funnel with far more fidelity than in the past. IoT allows tailoring products, services and offers to customers’ choices. This enables marketers to get more insights into consumer behavior, enabling businesses to influence purchase decisions (this is the customer feedback loop married with data-driven marketing that I discussed in my last article).
Looking ahead, I expect IoT will increase its reach and become a mainstay in our everyday lives. Smart homes and cities will be the norm rather than the exception. Connected devices will be more intuitive and easier to use. Through open standards and proprietary solutions, the next wave of innovation will be around IoT orchestration (how various IoT devices work together) and less about specific IoT functionality.
Further, tapestries of IoT solutions will connect via MVNO (mobile virtual network operators) network solutions. Consumer barriers to entry like high price points and the inherent complexities often associated with adopting new technologies will disappear.
Think back to the first generation of cellphones. They were big and bulky, and you basically had to sign your life away for a new cellular contract. It didn’t take long for mass consumer adoption to transform the entire market landscape. What was once considered a luxury item with providers and complicated plans has been replaced with the rise of smartphones, which we now consider a necessity. I believe we are at that same tipping point with IoT and the next generation of connected devices.
The new year brings new transformation.
The list goes on and is ever-evolving. What survived and what didn’t go according to plan is always unknown. Regardless of the end result, we approach this period with renewed vigor to launch new initiatives, strive toward lofty new goals, ramp up our workforce and, for many, set resolutions for the year ahead to be part of something bigger than ourselves. A transformation that can be the change we wish to see in the world is something I personally always look forward to.